- Black Powder typically burns (deflagrates) rather than detonates like Smokeless Powder
- Smokeless Powder reacts at much higher pressures than Black Powder
- Black Powder byproducts attract water and promote corrosion whereas Smokeless Powder usually includes additives to inhibit corrosion.
- Black Powder is actually a powder whereas Smokeless Powder is normally pelletized extrusions.
- The solid wastes from Black Powder makes the smoke.
- Smokeless Powder isn’t completely smokeless.
- Black Powder and Smokeless Powder are NOT interchangeable.
SMOKELESS PROPELLANT COMPONENTS
The propellant formulations may contain various energetic and auxiliary components:
- Nitrocellulose, an energetic component of most smokeless propellants
- Nitroglycerin, an energetic component of double-base and triple-base formulations
- Nitroguanidine, a component of triple-base formulations
- DINA (bis-nitroxyethylnitramine)
- Fivonite (tetramethylolcyclopentanone tetranitrate)
- DGN (di-ethylene glycol dinitrate)
- Acetyl cellulose
Deterrents, (or moderants), to slow the burning rate:
- Centralites (symmetrical diphenyl urea—primarily diethyl or dimethyl)
- Dibutyl phthalate
- Dinitrotoluene (toxic, carcinogenic, and obsolete)
- Akardite (asymmetrical diphenyl urea)
- ortho-tolyl urethane
- Polyester adipate
- Camphor (obsolete)
- Stabilizers, to prevent or slow down self-decomposition
- Petroleum jelly
- Calcium carbonate
- Magnesium oxide
- Sodium bicarbonate
- beta-naphthol methyl ether
- Amyl alcohol (obsolete)
- Aniline (obsolete)
Decoppering additives, to hinder the buildup of copper residues from the gun barrel rifling:
- Tin metal and compounds (e.g., tin dioxide)
- Bismuth metal and compounds (e.g., bismuth trioxide, bismuth subcarbonate, bismuth nitrate,
- bismuth antimonide); the bismuth compounds are favored as copper dissolves in molten bismuth, forming brittle and easily removable alloy
- Lead foil and lead compounds, phased out due to toxicity
Flash reducers, to reduce the brightness of the muzzle flash (all have a disadvantage: the production of smoke):
- Potassium chloride
- Potassium nitrate
- Potassium sulfate
- Potassium hydrogen tartarate (a byproduct of wine production formerly used by French artillery)
Wear reduction additives, to lower the wear of the gun barrel liners:
- Titanium dioxide
- Polyurethane jackets over the powder bags, in large guns
- Other additives
- Ethyl acetate, a solvent for manufacture of spherical powder
- Rosin, a surfactant to hold the grain shape of spherical powder
- Graphite, a lubricant to cover the grains and prevent them from sticking together, and to dissipate static electricity
There are three categories of smokeless powder:
Single-Base Powder: Propellants using nitrocellulose (detonation velocity 7,300 m/s (23,950 ft/s)) (typically an ether-alcohol colloid of nitrocellulose) as the sole explosive propellant ingredient.
Double-Base Powder: Propellants mixtures containing nitrocellulose and nitroglycerin (detonation velocity 7,700 m/s (25,260 ft/s)) as explosive propellant ingredients.
Triple-Base Powder: Contains nitrocellulose, nitroglycerin, and a substantial quantity of nitroguanidine (detonation velocity 8,200 m/s (26,900 ft/s)) as explosive propellants.